If you want to experience more positive moments in your life, start by checking your beliefs about what it means to live a happy life.
- You have the right to pursue Happiness, not have it delivered.You are free to define happiness in your own way, without others imposing their definition on you. At the same time, it’s no one else’s job to make you happy. That right only pays off if YOU do the work to seek, create, and nurture the elements that support your happiness.
- Pleasure is only one form of Happiness.Many things create happy moments: a good book, sex, entertainment, a sports team win, video games, dark chocolate J… yet pleasure is only the simplest (and most short-lived) level of happiness. If you want to build a solid foundation for a happy life, seek also to create Meaning. Build your life around your personal values. Engage in work (paid or volunteer) that allows you to positively impact others. Look for ways to create beauty, community, or connection.
- It’s a decision, not an event.Events in your world are neutral; it is the ‘story’ you tell yourself that leads to an assessment that something is Good or Bad. Remember that there are always multiple, simultaneous, valid assessments of every situation – thus any individual event can lead to positive, negative, or a dozen other reactions. Your experience of life depends on which point of view you most often take. When you CHOOSE to focus more often on the positive, the upside, the good news, and the possibility, you will notice more moments of happiness in your life.
- Your friends can make you Happier (or not).Emotions are contagious. Human beings frequently tune in to the prevailing mood in any gathering, whether it’s a family event or a business meeting. If you want to live in anger and resentment, go to lunch with chronic complainers; if you want to experience lightness and joy, volunteer to work with pre-schoolers. So if you seek more happiness, find people who radiate optimism, then spend more time in their company – they carry a ‘virus’ you WANT to catch!
- Happiness is like the candle, not the cake.If you see happiness as a cake, it’s all about finite resources that, when cut up and passed out to others, mean there is less left for you. Rather, think of happiness as the candle: when you use your candle to light others’ candles, yours does not burn any less bright, yet all those around you now share the light. Share happiness without worrying about ever running out.
- All emotions have value…though some we like better than others.Living a happier life is not possible without acknowledging the value of our many other emotions. Sadness connects us with loss, fear protects us from danger, anger is a legitimate response to harm done, love joins us to others, and perseverance helps us endure in the face of obstacles. Each emotion has a time and a place for use. Happiness connects us with what we have and who we are and helps us notice that, in this moment, it is enough.
- If you want to live in Happiness more often, you must practice visiting it.Emotions are fleeting, but when we live very often in a particular emotion that one becomes our prevailing Mood. Many people ‘practice’ living in anxiety, fear, worry, stress, sadness, anger, or resentment. It’s hard to experience happiness when your stress response is angry, bitter, or afraid. If instead you practice Gratitude (counting your blessings), Optimism (listing what might go right), or Happiness (standing solid, breathing deeply, smiling), you can shift the Mood that your body considers “home base.”
- It’s about wanting what you have (period).I recently posted a quote online: Happiness is a function of accepting what is. One fan commented: “…but trying to change it for the better…” My reply: Ah…no. Happiness IS accepting what is. Period. Ambition is wanting to change it for the better. You can be happy and ambitious at the same time, of course, but let us not mistake one for the other. Happiness is an emotion of the present, the now, the moment; while ambition is an emotion of the future, what is next, tomorrow.
- You have the power.The most basic of all basics: You can give yourself permission, right now, to be happy, without having to be anything else, do anything else, or please anyone but you. You have that power, if you choose to use it.
Jim Smith, PCC, is The Executive Happiness Coach®. He is an international speaker, executive and life coach, and author. He provides his clients with inspiration and practical tools to live a happier life and build more positive work cultures. He is the author of Happiness At The Speed of Life: 13 Powerful Strategies for Finding Happiness at Home and On The Job, and has touched the lives of over 10,000 people worldwide through his work on Positive Emotion and Leadership. You can connect with Jim at theexecutivehappinesscoach.com.